The USA Cricket Association has announced over the weekend that it has offered central contracts to four players and intends to offer up to 20 more contracts in the next "two to three months". The declarations were made by USACA president Gladstone Dainty and former USA coach Robin Singh during a series of speeches and presentations made at the USACA T20 National Championship in Florida this weekend.
USA captain Steven Taylor, allrounders Timroy Allen and Timil Patel, and Trinbago Knight Riders batsman William Perkins were the first four players offered central contracts by the USACA. Dainty stated in a speech to the players on November 19 that the contracts were worth $48,000. It is not known if any of the players has accepted the offer yet but according to multiple sources, USA's players were advised by ICC Americas officials last month to decline any offer made by USACA after rumours of potential contract offers had circulated.
A battle for control of the selection process for USA national teams is not unprecedented. In 2005, a dispute over USA squad selections between USACA and the Council of League Presidents resulted in USA being kicked out of the Intercontinental Cup and replaced by Cayman Islands. USACA was suspended soon after, the first of three administrative suspensions over the course of the next decade.
In September, ICC Americas staff, currently administering USA cricket in a caretaker role, hired former Sri Lanka Test cricketer Pubudu Dassanayake as the new USA coach ahead of WCL Division Four in Los Angeles, which USA won to gain promotion to Division Three. Robin last coached a USA side at 2014 ICC WCL Division Three in Malaysia, when USA finished fifth and were relegated to Division Four, but he is still listed on the USACA web site as their men's national coach.
However, under USACA's current suspension, the ICC has made clear that it has assumed complete control over USA's operational affairs including national-team selection. Dassanayake is expected to continue leading USA's preparation for Division Three in Uganda next year. USACA has until December 15 to ratify a new constitution that has been approved by the ICC. Failure to do so may see a resolution put forth by December 31 leading to USACA's potential expulsion as an Associate Member at the next ICC Annual Conference in June 2017.
In a speech delivered on Sunday, Robin said he had put together a list of players from which 20 would receive USACA contracts in early 2017. Robin emphasised that the contracts were made possible by the $70 million investment deal announced last month between USACA and Philadelphia businessman Jay Pandya, who was subsequently announced as the new owner of the CPL franchise St Lucia Zouks.
"We're going to consider all of these people going forward to give contracts," Robin said after the list of 29 additional names for consideration was unveiled. "Hopefully in the next year or two, we want to actually give out about 20 professional contracts and we want to make it as clear as possible. We want to make sure people are actually committed to the game. I'll put out a list of commitments and requirements that I expect, and there's going to be some very tough lines."
The USACA list of 33 players differs in notable ways from the 30-man national squad announced by ICC Americas evaluators in July. Among those that have been included in the USACA list of potential contract recipients are several players with first-class experience overseas including former India U-19 and Mumbai medium pacer Saurabh Netravalkar, Carlitos Lopez and Roy Silva. The only players who were part of USA's Division Four and Auty Cup squads from October not included in USACA's proposed contract list are Srini Santhanam, Hammad Shahid and Abdullah Syed.
"In the next three months, we're going to make sure there are a lot of games played," Robin said. "It's not only for the people who are on this list. I will call people outside the box and I think it's necessary. If people are injured, or not available, or not honest enough, we will remove them from the list because it's not my money. We are playing with other people's money here and I think [Pandya] has made a serious commitment to take the game forward in this part of the world, and I think, as cricketers, you owe it to yourself to give yourself the best chance."